28 January 2010

How to get more candidates interviewed by clients - the funnel technique

I was coaching a recruiter last year (let's call her Andrea) and after a couple of hours of watching her confidently go about her day, I was able to contribute a few small pieces of advice to build her skills further. Then, uncharacteristically, Andrea stopped and stared at the phone, stared at the resume on the screen in front of her, stared back at the phone and then sighed. It was almost like I had witnessed her energy and self-confidence evaporate like a button had been pressed.

‘What's up?' I said.

‘It's this client - I'm dreading calling him about these two candidates' Andrea replied.

‘Why?' I inquired.

‘I've worked with this client on a few jobs before and no matter how well matched I think my candidates are for his jobs he always wants to know who else I've got. He never seems to appreciate how long it takes to screen all these average candidates, interview the good ones and then find a really good one who actually wants to do the job!'

Okay. So do you tell the client exactly what you've done for him?' I asked.

‘Yes, I tell him how hard and time consuming it is to find good people for him'

‘Well that's certainly true but it's such a generalised statement that it is unlikely to change the client's mind. I'll give you an example of how specific you need to be using a strategy I call the funnel technique'. I said. Here's an example of what I mean:

‘Mr Client, I reviewed my entire database of 17,181 candidates, placed an ad on 3 job boards as well as on our own website. From that process I considered a long list of 46 potential candidates.

From those 46, I telephoned screened 12 candidates. Of those 12 candidates, 5 were worth interviewing face-to-face. Of those 5 candidates I excluded 3 from my final short list because one interviewed very well but upon checking his references it was clear that he was exaggerating his skills.

One candidate was not, when I really pushed, genuine about leaving her current job and the final candidate I excluded was technically excellent but culturally a poor match for your organisation. That left me with the following 2 candidates for you to interview....'

‘Wow' said Andrea, ‘do you really think I should give the client all that information?"

‘Sure', I said, ‘given you have invested 10 hours of your time on this role, it makes sense to take a couple of minutes to inform the client of your methodical journey through the candidate funnel that had you arrive at your recommended shortlist of two candidates'

And what happened after Andrea and I ran through her imminent conversation in a role play scenario? The client agreed to interview both candidates.

It's now a technique that Andrea uses every time with consistent success.

This example of the funnel technique demonstrates the power of providing information with context. In this case the context is Andrea communicating all the work she has done to provide a thoroughly assessed shortlist.

Without this context, the client creates their own context and there's a huge risk that the client's context will not be helpful to the recruiter (ie ‘this recruiter has just plucked a few resumes off their database - I better get her to really earn her fee').

I strongly recommend very deliberately and accurately communicating to the client why you have excluded the almost-good-enough candidates because it pre-empts the client's question ‘do you have any other candidates?' with an implicit ‘yes, I do and they aren't as good as the ones I am referring to you'.

Do you, in every shortlist presentation to your client (even a short list of one candidate), take the opportunity to communicate a context that helps you win more interviews?

If not, I would suggest that the using the funnel technique is a very simple way to ensure that you increase the number of your referred candidates that your clients will agree to interview.

What have you got to lose?

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